Is your development team prepared for the future?

To be prepared for something, one must practice preparedness. This is how we at IT Craft do it.

In one of our previous blog posts, we discussed this game-changing skill every project needs: flexibility. In this blog post, we discuss how our web development department keeps our developers on their toes and flexible: a hackathon.  

Evolve or Die

What could be a problem? On one hand, technological changes are not likely to emerge overnight. A service that runs smoothly today is likely to keep doing so for reasonable period of time. On the other hand, when looking at long-term projects, they evolve together with their technological stack, becoming different from what was in the first release.

Just to list a few more-than-just-possible challenges enduring projects face:

  • Before starting a custom solution development, your development team analyzes technological stacks your competitors use. They apply it or offer an easier-to-maintain alternative. In either case, it must be a responsible choice.
  • A new, improved version of a framework is in its beta. It is more powerful, has more features under its hood but it is not compatible with the previous version. You must migrate to it ASAP, before your competitors do.
  • Your solution relies heavily on a 3rd-party service and it announces a shutdown.
  • A new elegant service is available. It seems likely to solve app maintenance problems, saving your team time and/or effort. Someone must examine the option.

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon (hack + marathon) is an event – ranging from several hours to several days – when IT people are intensively involved into software development-related projects. The goal is never to complete any software but always ends with something meaningful: prototype, wireframe, algorithm, task presentation, or something similar. During a hackathon, people learn how to deal with new technologies, prioritize activities and track the time left.

Why a hackathon?

Every developer follows industry trends but not every developer has enough time to experiment. It is unlikely developers apply a new technology for an ongoing project just to see what happens or because they have no other choice. Why not grant developers some time for learning?

IT Craft’s Web development department decided to start small and get some practical experience with new technologies to convert later into skills. A hackathon is the best opportunity for developers to try something new and see how much future it has.

How does it work at IT Craft?

Hackathon was organized by IT Craft’s Web development department as an internal event. The Web development department started with individual activities (collaborative activities planned to be next) ensuring developers set aside everyday tasks and only focus on hackathon projects.

Not only programmers comprise our teams. Organizers provided several nominations: Business Analysis (competitive analysis), Graphical Design (Android Material Design), HTML / CSS (Bootstrap 4 alpha), iOS (React Native with Objective-C), PHP (WebSockets, Node.js), Quality Assurance (load testing) encouraging everyone for think-outside-the-box time.

What is the timeline?

The first season of hackathon consists of three rounds. Each round has six hours for a task completion plus two hours for all presentations. Also, there is an optional 24-hour timeline for those who want to invest more time in tasks.

How is the effort evaluated?

Every task has minimum requirements. Participants must meet these to get their points. Also, they must send their presentations before the specified deadline (there is a person who monitors all procedures). Also, participants vote for other presentations they like the most. These get extra points as Audience Choice.

What results do you expect?

Hackathons proved to be an effective learning tool. Developers learn how to:

  • Deal with new technologies.
  • Estimate their time and effort on new tasks.
  • Present their ideas in front of an audience larger and more diverse than their teams.

There will be new rounds of our hackathon. We anticipate more accurate estimates and new ideas on how to improve development processes with new technologies.

Also, in perspective, every team member will be aware of the many options available for their projects. This way, we can be assured we can competently meet any challenge the future throws at us.